Jam session? Go for it! (You’ll never feel totally ready)

If you’re waiting until you’re “ready” before you go “sit in” at the local jazz jam session, you can stop waiting right now: you’ll never feel totally ready.

Same with:

Inviting a fellow musician over to “jam.”
Volunteering to play piano for your church talent show.
Accompanying your local community chorus.
Putting together the rock band you’ve had in mind.

You get the idea. Whatever it is you’re waiting to do musically, don’t wait until you feel totally confident. Because the truth is that you’ll probably never feel totally “ready.”

Miles Davis didn’t feel “ready” to play with Charlie Parker, but he did it anyway.
Oscar Peterson didn’t feel “ready” to play for his idol Art Tatum, but he did it anyway.
The list could go on and on. I know this for myself, too, and here’s the big secret: You don’t have to feel “ready.” You just have to be able to think on your feet and know the musical language enough to be able to learn what you don’t already know.

So learn a few jazz tunes and go “sit in.” You’ll come home with a few more tunes to practice for the next time.
Invite a friend over to jam and learn a few songs together.
Volunteer to play for the church talent show, get the music before the first rehearsal, and practice a lot.
Tell the director of your local community choir that you’d like the music in advance so you can learn it before the first rehearsal. The rest will be “on the job” training!
Go ahead and assemble that rock band you’ve had in mind. Negotiating everyone’s personalities will be much more challenging than any musical issues you’re worried about.

The key phrase here is “on the job training”. It’s ironic: The feeling of readiness you’re looking for can only come from actually doing it. With others.

So prepare as much as you can, and then simply dive in. With an open mind, and eagerness to work hard, and a willing attitude. Sure, there will be bumps along the way, but that’s part of the game. The rewards you’ll receive, both musically and socially, will more than make up for the challenges you’ll face.

There’s a lot of joy in making music with others. Go for it!

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